Seven Nights of Darkness
Seven Nights of Darkness begins with a text prologue, Six reality show contestants spent seven nights in abandoned asylum, but the show never aired because of the tragedy and they ended up piecing together the footage that we had!
I’m a little worried that this sound like Grave Encounters, on the other hand, I LIKE Grave Encounters so hopefully this won’t be too bad won’t be too bad. A note, the first contestant is from Toledo Ohio! A little down south but still hometown territory!
It’s definitely from the found footage craze that Paranormal Activity kicked off, the problem is they seem to be using the mic attached the camera which is gonna cause problems throughout this whole thing. I can see I’m gonna be riding the volume button on the remote the whole time.
The first night, the contestant’s task is to explore the asylum, in particular, the lower levels. As the contestants move around the place, we see a lot of teasing and scaring each other… high school sort of nonsense. There are creepy artifacts in the building, a doll here, a crib there, a ghost detector that they can check areas with… The bathrooms are absolutely definitely haunted!
Night two, we open the envelope with the task in it – “if it says karaoke I’m leaving!” No, not karaoke but they are instructed to hold a séance on the second floor. One of the contestants freaked out a little bit, inside she’s going to continue to sleep on. That night we start to hear strange noises…like a baby cry. Out medium is affected and goes catatonic.
Night threes instructions are to reenact on the third floor and take pictures. This is when things start to get bad. As they take a photo there’s almost a flash of a ghostly figure behind the chair, and suddenly the girl from the previous night who had the freak out comes out of her catatonic to rush our group and attack them.
Night four and the girl is back in her catatonic state, sitting in the lobotomy chair. One of the contestants is fed up, and starts going up there, interrogating and yelling at her as she just stands there blankly… Finally he elicits a terrible reaction from her, and we can see the possesion. Weird spatial and temporal distortions begin to pop up as well.
One of the players is exposed to the plant , Someone who’s been making noises and stuff, but the reason he’s confessing is because the place is trying to freaking out now, and there’s stuff happening that he didn’t cause. Even worse, possessed girl has vanished. It’s all set us up for an intense third act.
That’s it. I don’t actually want to give you any more description because this one I really want you to go out and try and find. I noticed that it’s on YouTube, and this movie alone is worth the purchase of this box set. It starts off slow and derivative and I was completely unimpressed until about halfway through the movie when suddenly it just kept getting scarier and scarier. In a lot of ways it’s kind of a low rent Grave Encounters with a dash of Blair Witch. But even with that rocky start, it pays off in spades.
85% of the cast is under 25
something walks by in the background
I’d actually been meaning to get out to Astronomicon for several years now. I’ve heard about it mostly from my friend Dirk who was a frequent guest there. When he mentioned once again that it was coming up this weekend, I took a quick glance at the calander and noticed this weekend that I had one kid at grandma’s, and the other one out with her mother… and it was a perfect opportunity to sneak back out to Detroit.
The show had always struck me as one of those medium to small cones…. something pop culture and horror and comics. Burton Manor is a nice little facility out on the outskirts of nowhere, and after a glance at thier website and Google earth, I figured I knew what I was in for.
I was wrong.
Burton Manor must be bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, because when I arrived, I found a medium to large scale convention with the vision, scope and pricing to match a Horrorhound or Days of the Dead style show. It’s also very firmly a horror show. Not something that I had gotten from the vaguely Sci-Fi logo, but probably should have expected considering it’s run by Twizted, a jugaloo band (It IS Detroit, after all).
Still, the staff were efficient, friendly and really good people. They kept traffic flowing, and could point you to wherever you needed to go at a moment’s notice. One of them saw I was having trouble with my shoulder pads and offered to give me a hand… hooking the pads onto the clips on my vest, and then sending me on my way with a smile. These guys really do go above and beyond the call of duty.
I spent the day fielding the occasional question “Since When does Pinhead dress like that?”
“Since the Scarlet Gospels!” (Clive Barkers literary end to the Hellraiser saga, where he descripes Pinhead stealing Lucifer’s armor) I’d had this new costume sitting in my basement since just before the government lock downs. This Hellraiser armor had originally been intended for ConCoction that year, but ConCoction was one of the 1st shows to have to close their doors due to the widespread lockdowns (They’re actually only coming back for the first time this year). I hadn’t had an appropriate horror themed show the really shown this off out since then. At Astronomicon there’s a heavy cosplay influence. They encourage it by running costume contests on Saturday, with prizes designed to encourage people to bring their “A” game. The kids and pet costume contest was so much fun, with so many terrifying and yet adorable costumes parading by. One little girl, She couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7, paraded around in a Venom costume. As I was walking by I smiled and complimented her her pointing out that she had a very scary mask. She grinned, pulled the mask down over her head, took a step towards her father and started biting on his arm!
A Warhammer cleric meandered around the show in dark red robes, techno glory and four legs .A-war hammer cleric mold around the show in dark red robes, techno glory and 6 flags. I made a point to find him so I could get photos, and he was thrilled to talk about his costume. He’d only completed it the night before, so this was absolutely its 1st time out. It was the first time out for my Hellraiser armor as well, and that’s always a struggle. Actually, struggle is putting it mildly. The words of the day were “wardrobe of malfunction”.
Before I even arrived on site, as I was driving out , my chain mail ripped off of the right shoulder, and then completely off my left arm. Fortunately, I came with a full repair kit. I pulled out the wireless hot glue gun, and welded them back into place once I was safely parked. After I had gotten in to the show, the Velcro on my belt decided to give way. I excuse myself and headed back to the car. I punched a hole through with the back of the belt, and then Connected it using the belt clip on my keys. That made heading through the metal detector interesting. “I’ve got a set of keys on me, but I can’t actually reach them or take them out!” the Security guard checked behind me with a chuckle, and waved me through.
My left boot was the next to go. The Velcro just wasn’t holding, and things felt a little too tight. I ended up grabbing a roll of duck tape, and actually increased the width of the foot itself. Then I reglued the Velcro on top of the new boot flap. That would hold for the rest of the day, only coming apart once I made it back to the car to leave. On the other hand, the left boot was giving my left thigh ideas… and the armor just would not stay connected to the garter. I finally ended up fixing this problem By grabbing a duck tape roll again, and literally taping the garter up to the armor, forcing the Velcro together and adding extra adhesion. It managed to hold until after the contest walk through, but I did attend the awards hand out with my leg strategically pressed up against my staff to hold it in place. Up on the stage, I was joined by the Warhammer Cleric I mentioned earlier. He looked over at me and lifted his helmet.
“We made it,” He smiled at me.
“Oh I knew when I first saw you this afternoon, that you’d take first place,” I nodded back, pleased. He tilted his head to me and whispered confidentially.
“And I knew you’d be right up here with me.”
You know, I hear so many of my friends complain about the backstabbing and gossiping and trash talking that goes on in the cosplay community. I just don’t hang with people like that and instead try to be positive. So when I get a really touching moment like this – it’s EXACTLY what I always talk about when I say the best part of the con is hanging out with people in the contest lineup – talking with them and socializing. Weather it’s gushing over the TMNT in the trenchcoat or chatting with the other pinhead about how her makeup was so much cleaner than mine…or even discussing 3d printing with the emcee and how I made my box. This is the stuff that keeps me going to these things.
Unfortunately, Detroit got hit with a bad snowstorm the week before and it delayed the delivery of the trophies for the winners of the contest. The judge asked us to hang back so she could get our addresses, promising to mail them out to us. She pulled out her note cards and copied each one down, then came to me. As I finished she looked up at me in mock horror.
“We let someone from OHIO place in our costume contest???”
The costume contest isn’t the only programming though, I watched an interesting presentation of speed painting. An artist in a shirt riddled with flashing Christmas lights proceeded to create 3 distinct pieces relating to the guests that day. Each Painting is beautiful and recognizable, despite being done within 15 minutes. It’s amusing to watch him dancing paint as music pulses in the background. I also made it out to the Clerks panel. I’m really only at best, a casual fan of pre #KevinSmithLied work, but I always enjoy listening to tales from the film set. My particular favorite of this panel was Jeff Anderson telling the story of a young PA. You see, Jason Mews, who plays Jay, had a tendency to wander off. He sees something interesting going on, or flirts with a girl, or sneaks off to get high… and he just was never around when they needed come. By the 2nd week, the film hired a PA whose sole job was to keep track of Jason and know where he was at all times. Jason of course, didn’t take kindly to this. At one point, he ran to the bathroom. The PA waited outside, until grabbing Anderson and asking “could you check In there to see what’s going on?” Jason had snuck out the window to ditch her.
The dealer’s room is vast, and I spent a lot of time circuitously moving through it. It’s the best way to get people a chance to check out the costume and take photos with it. Interestingly enough, one thing I noticed was babies love Pinhead! I don’t know what it was, if it was the stark white skin or the gold armor… if it’s just that hes highly visible and easy for them to see, but more than one kid being carried by his mom would just stare and grin at me, reaching out to touch the pins. I would offer up the box and watch them grab at it. One Mom laughing hysterically told me, “This was the best part of our day!”
That’s one of the things I love about horror conventions. You meet the nicest, friendliest people… I know that’s counterintuitive, but it’s just the way it is. Even more so than Comic-Con’s, horror conventions have a sort of camaraderie that you don’t find anywhere else. At one point, I was staring through The dig bins of cheap action figures and spotted the perfect He-man… but I couldn’t reach it in my armor. I tapped the shoulder of the guy next to me, and asked “could you do me a favor? I can’t actually bend over in this. could you grab that He-man with the blue boots and that bin there, so I could buy it?” he laughed and scooped up the figure for me. The dealer accepted some slightly sweaty dollar bills from the inside of my glove and I ran off with my prize. We always want to shop the dealer’s room, it’s what makes these conventions happen and I definitely want to make sure that it’s worth their while. Especially if I’m going to be clogging up the aisles with a bulky costume like this!
All in all, I’m very glad I headed out to Astronomicon however, I don’t think I’ll be back. It’s a little too expensive for my taste, and quite frankly, it’s already outgrown this venue. I arrived early in the morning so that I could do the difficult parts of my makeup application in the parking lot. I was fortunate to be able to find a spot pretty close to the building. Apparently I was the only one with that sort of good fortune, as all day people complained about the parking situation. I believe it too, because I constantly heard announcements over the loudspeaker about this car getting toad and that car being illegally parked.
Still, despite it all, it was a good day, and if you’re in the area – there’s worse things you could do on a Saturday!
Cinema Wasteland fall 2022
The two Dracula‘s faced off, grim and ashen. It was a battle of wills, to see which one was more powerful… And which one had bigger hair!
I must say, I’ve been looking forward to meeting Zandor Vorkov ever since he was announced as a guest for cinema wasteland a couple of years ago. Over the craziness of the past few years and events, Wasteland has had to reschedule a number of guests and rethink some of its reunions. I was stoked though for both the star of Al Adamson’s Dracula versus Frankenstein, but also that we were finally getting that Motel Hell reunion off the ground. That poster has been sitting rolled up in a tube in my house for at least 18 months. Also in attendance would be Toby Radlof… Appearing with Wayne Alan Harold, the man who directed him in such films as killer nerd, bride of killer nerd, and the recent documentary genuine nerd. You may also know Tony from his role in American splendor, he’s one of Harvey Pekar‘s contemporaries as well as managing to parlay that into becoming an MTV personality. Still, he’s a Cleveland denizen, all these years and his cadence and Tanner is unmistakable. Filmmaker JR book water is working on a remaster of the killer nerd movies, and had put together a artwork for a new poster that Tony was giving out over the course of the weekend. He and the Director we’re both signing for free, which I hate to take too much advantage of… But I was not walking out of there without a poster! I grabbed one of their DVDs as well, and it came up in conversation that I actually had the original VHS releases that trauma had distributed. They insisted on signing those as well! The directors a nice chatty guy and makes up for Tony who is very focused and less are going. He’s actually just about at retirement age, and is getting ready to jump ship before the administration changes. This wasn’t his first visit to wasteland But for whatever reason, I missed in the last time, and was really happy to get to meet him this time around.
Alex Vincent had ended up canceling on the show, he was stuck in Florida, hunker down against the hurricane. I got admit, I wasn’t terribly bothered… Of all the people who were coming to the show… He was the most main stream and probably the one I was least interested in! Then again, that’s kind of the whole thing about wasteland. Will you bring in this weird selection of really interesting guests that nobody else wants to post… And I am absolutely here for it. It’s one of those things that keeps me coming back here after year, even as the show begins to slow down and shrink a little. I can’t wait until I return in April!
State of the Con 2022
Of the ones that remain, there’s still challenges to navigate. Both Great Lakes Comic Con and RathaCon are requiring guests to be masked at all times. Quite frankly, I don’t want to drive several hours for a show that I’m just going to have to mask up for, so those are off the schedule this year. So are a number of the anime conventions in the area. A lot of these shows are requiring proof of vaccination. I have my card, and I AM fully Vaxxed, but I am not willing to “show my papers“ just to go into a convention or concert. That’s not a move I support.
Here’s my current con schedule for this year.
(BTW, the three Westlake shows are all Harper shows – basically marketplaces rather than cons, but they’re so close to home that it’s still worth hitting if I have nothing better to do.)
|Mar-5||Horror Realm||Pittsburg||PA||Matthew and Mike|
|Mar-13||Fantasticon||Toledo||OH||Maddie and Matt|
|Mar-20||Cle Comic & Nostalgia||Westlake||OH||Matthew|
|April 8-10||Cinema Wasteland||Stronsville||OH||Matthew|
|May-15||Hazard Con||Erie||PA||Maddie and Matt|
|May-28||Fanboy Expo||Columbus||OH||Maddie and Matt|
|Jun-25||Monster Bash ?||Pittsburg||PA||Matthew|
|Jul-9||Mahoning Comic Con||Youngstow||OH||Maddie and Matt|
|Jul-31||NEO Comicon||N. Olmsted||OH||Maddie and Matt|
|Sep-17||Erie Comicon ?||Erie||PA||Check covid regs|
|Oct-2||Cle Comic & Nostalgia||Westlake||OH||Matthew|
Curse of Robert
The curse of up Robert starts with someone hopping into car carrying a very familiar suitcase. A crooked cop has been paid to swipe it from the evidence locker. No one‘s gonna miss it anyhow, no one believes the fantastic story about the killer doll. We then cut to a dollmaker‘s room, parts splayed over the benches and shelves of partially made dolls. We get a bit of a prologue voiced over this, and it’s a bit of a foreshadowing of the toymaker that we’ll meet in the later sequels. For now, we shift to a young woman named Emily driving her car on country roads as the credits scroll. Her Destination is a World War II museum where she’s starting work as a cleaning assistant.
The manager gives her a tour, and this is where she meets Robert. He is an exhibit, cased behind glass. . It turns out that the museum was dead before he was put there, but now he’s a huge draw. Creepy things happen almost immediately – a baby doll and a carriage rolling out into the middle of the hall during Emily’s first night, things moving out of the corner of her eye, a handprint on the inside of Roberts class display , things like that. One of the security guys is indifferent, but the other, a hunky young guy named Kevin is wanting to check things out. He finds nothing. He’s a little sweet on our cleaning assistant Emily though.
The other security guard, the fat indifferent one, well Robert doesn’t like him very much. One night during his rounds in the dark, Robert expresses his displeasure. The cleaning managers next to get it, attacked while the hunky security guard makes time with the young cleaning assistant. Scotland yard is not amused. They’re convinced that the museum is just trying to stir up trouble, make the place look like it’s haunted so they can raise ticket prices… and that she is a suspect. Now it’s up to Emily and Kevin to prove that the doll is really the one committing the murders.
We get a nice bit of expositions covering the previous film as they do research… complete with photos of the characters in that first movie. Turns out that ultimately, Jenny, the mother, was convicted of Roberts murders. Good to know what happened in the aftermath of that film actually, a a reason to visit her in the asylum. It’s a nice bit of connective tissue reminiscent of what they did in Hellraiser three with Ashley Lawrence’s cameo. It turns out that the museum owner is a man named Amos Blackwood who she suspects is the brother of the evil housekeeper from the first movie.
Take note of that name by the way, you’ll be hearing it again.
Hunky boyfriend calls up the museum manager and blackmails him into showing up that night… claiming he has copies of the security camera footage. The manager obviously knows something’s up, and agrees to meet them both at 8 o’clock that evening.
Turns out, he’s not Amos Blackwood (He’s not? I wonder if the story got changed midway to accommodate the bookends), but he liked the cursed story and decided to lean into it to Mark at the museum… No matter what the rest. It’s a weird confrontation, and of course he double crosses them. Unfortunately for him, Robert is free and roaming the museum, with menacing POV shots and low angles. Robert looks very happy as he stabs the museum owner in the leg, and it gives our heroes a chance to flee. Museum owner gets off a shot, and hits hunky boyfriend in the leg, slowing them down. The doors are locked, and Robert isn’t satisfied with just one victim. He slashes the throat of the gimp boyfriend, and begins to stalk Emily. It’s up to her now to run and hide and survive until morning (and the cops) comes.
The film is book ended with more shots of the doll makers workshop. We pan past more fake eyeballs and doll parts and slowly reveal the old toy maker. This is Amos Blackwood. This is the man who built Robert… it’s a surprisingly long sequence, running a good six minutes or so and really seems to be there for no other reason then to pad out the film and reach feature length, and perhaps to set up the later films.
The film was mostly shot on location at the 1940s Swansea Bay Museum in Crymlyn Burrows, Swansea, Wales. The Swansea Bay Museum acted as their stand–in for East Martello Museum in Key West, where Robert is actually displayed. Some employees there have claimed to have experienced unusual activity when in the presence of the doll. Others have even claimed Robert attacked them. It’s notable that when they built the display for the movie doll, they included a sign that says “please ask Roberts permission before taking his photo”. This is real. In the Key West museum, visitors are told to ask the doll for permission before snapping a picture. They say anybody who dares to take a picture without the doll’s consent is cursed for all eternity. The actual museum displays numerous letters from people asking Robert to remove the curse he placed on them.
This will be the last we see of Robert in present day, and it’s kind of a shame. The character works well in modern settings as a haunted doll with a history, but from here out, the series would look backwards rather than forwards.
Cinema Wasteland Fall 2021
I smiled and shook my head, and as I readjusted my backpack.
“No, I’m just trying to get everything stashed and get out-of-the-way.”
Roberts smiled. “You’re not ever in anyone’s way, and you’re a lovely man!”
You know, these sort of things just don’t happen at Horrorhound.
It feels like Cinema Wasteland lite this time around, even more so than the movie nights Ken occasionally throws. He tested the waters with one of those movie nights month or two ago, and was putting on the first full Cinema Wasteland this weekend since the lockdown. But, the attendance was a little more sparse than usual. Regulars like Tom Sullivan were notably absent. About half of those in attendance and vending were wearing masks. Like I said, it felt a bit like a light version of the normal show. Nevertheless, I hadn’t realized how much I needed a wasteland weekend.
Wasteland is all about programming. It’s all about the curation, and showing me films I never knew I needed to see like The incredibly strange creatures just stopped living and became mixed zombies. This one was playing Friday evening, hosted by Gunga Jim. I generally enjoy his stuff, and he is always a fun personality at the events. Gunga Jim came into the movie room to announce that this would in fact be the only time he gets to show this film. Somebody had just snatched up the rights to this public domain movie, just this week and that prevented him from selling it or ever screening it again. Such a bizarre development, and really, after watching this movie… Who would WANT to buy the rights to it? This thing isn’t getting a criterion Blu-ray release!
Guests at Cinema Wasteland tend to be more obscure ones, not the main stream folks who are constantly on the convention circuit… there are a lot of first-timers and these are people who genuinely want to be there. They’re having fun and amazed at how nice the crowd is. Wasteland tends to spoil a first time convention guest for any other shows.
Zander Vorkov could not make it this year, some health problems have sprung up recently, so I signed the giant get well card that Ken had set out at the registration desk. Another fun little touch that wasteland generally does for guests to have to bow out because of some ailment or another.
My personal favorite film this time around, had to be psycho ape. The premise is a crazed killer rate goes around murdering people with bananas. In this universe, bananas are as razor sharp and deadly as any knife or blade. He’s pursued by a teenage girl who wants to be the next Jane Goodall, trying to help him, and the sinister doctor ZOOmis; Wildlife specialist with a Dr. Loomis from Halloween sort of obsession with capturing and imprisoning psycho ape. The apes it is bad, the CGI blood packs are terrible, and the whole thing is just ludicrous… And it revels in it. They know exactly how bad of a film as it is, and they lean into it. It ends up being bloody, funny, and just a generally good time.
I ended up my weekend, by popping out to wasteland Sunday afternoon for one quick last go around in the dealers room, before headed out to the Cleveland Comic and Nostalgia Show a couple towns over in Westlake. I’ve reviewed a couple of Harper shows this year already, there’s not much that changes or that needs to be said. I was there for $.50 bins and to hang out with a friend who was having a birthday.
Horror Realm 2020
The artist behind the table waved me over. I shuffled in my Ghostbuster suit.
“Can I take your picture? I’ve got a guy on the other end of the phone who don’t believe you exist!”
Under the gorilla mask I smiled, and waved my Monkey paw.
I was there for the first Horror Realm, held in this very hotel. It was the year I was getting back into the convention scene and was early in my first big tour. The show was being heavily promoted by the It’s Alive Show (My favorite horror host show at the time) and I kicked off my Dawn of the Dead poster with a reunion there and the rest was history.
I was also there for the last Horror Realm, held in a different hotel, where I managed to plug a bunch of the holes in my Nightmare On Elm Street collection. It had been quite a few years in between, and I found myself remembering how much I enjoyed it and resolved to come back the next year.
Only there wasn’t a next year.
The promoters ran into some family problems, and real life had to come first. They ended up not being able to produce the show any longer and reluctantly retired. We thought, for good but last fall I took a peek at their website and noticed they finally managed to pull things together to bring the convention back and I was determined to be there.
As I pulled into the city limits, I noticed a car that merged in front of me. There was a Jason mask on One side of the trunk and I Michael mask on the other. It was Frankenstein monster on the bumper just below superman license plates from Ohio. I grinned and switched off the GPS, Figuring it would be a safe bet to just follow this guy the rest of the way. Once we pulled into the lot of the hotel, I discovered that he was actually from Lorain – the suburb that neighbors my own hometown near Cleveland. We chatted about Cinema Wasteland and then made our way in.
I was severely displeased to discover that Tiffany Shepis had cancelled. I understand cancelling because you’re sick, but the con didn’t post notifications on Facebook until 10 am, and by that time I was well on the road, my pre-departure website check irrelevant. There was a hand written sign posted inconspicuously behind the registration table. I didn’t notice it until I had scoured the vendors room twice searching for her. Nevertheless, she wasn’t the only one I was there to see. I made a beeline over to Kelly Marooney’s table to get her autograph on my Chopping Mall poster. I’m sad that she was overcharging and her price list was (unintentionally?) misleading about the gouging upcharge on photos, but it’s Chopping Mall and she’s the last one the con circuit from that movie available. It’s a terrible film that I have a strange obsession with, and I’m happy to have as many autographs on it as I do.
I moved along, doing some shopping. There was a huge box of loose He-Man figures for cheap. I grabbed several that still had their armor. Some still needed cleaning, but finding a Man At Arms with that breastplate and shoulder armor for four bucks is a big deal. I grabbed a functional Battle Armor Skeletor as well as a few others to hit that five for $20 mark. I found lip balm for Lydia and stickers for Maddie as well as a catnip Jason Mask for Sparky and loaded up on movie deals. Good shopping here and great vendors.
After hitting up the short film block it was time to get into costume. I’d brought out Tracy the Ghostbusting gorilla, just for fun. I don’t know if the Filmation Ghost Busters was just big in PA or what, but I think I got recognized in this outift more here than anywhere else ever! People got the joke, and several asked me about it – just to make sure, asking if the name tag was intentional and then showing delight when I confirmed that yes, I was doing THAT character. Its also just as fun as ever to watch people explain to their friends just what I am. This isn’t a big cosplay show (It’s not designed to be either) but there were a few notable costumes roaming – a fun Art the Clown from Terrifier and an amazing Chatterer from Hellraiser, not to mention a brief appearance by a Killer Klown. Over at the Happy Cloud Pictures booth, author Mike Watt grinned hysterically and fist bumped me. Actress Patricia Tallman (Night of the Living Dead, Star Trek and Babylon 5) ran over to me and had me video chat with someone on her phone….it was a good day to be a gorilla.
One of the things I really enjoy about Horror Realm is that they do some fun things, beyond just good panels and film screenings. They do a tattoo contest as well as a Match game where contestants get asked silly questions and see if their answers match a group of specially chosen panelists such as Ken from Cinema Wasteland and Amy Lynn Best from Happy Cloud Pictures.
It’s hard to tell, but while the crowd was respectable, it did seem a little thin. Because of the gap, Horror Realm has been knocked back into a rebuilding mode. The film selection suffered and wasn’t nearly as entertaining as previous years. Fears over the Corona virus may have played into it as well, but in any event you can see they are starting over. Still, Horror Realm is a name with some respect behind it and you can still see the heart they put into throwing this con. I still love it and I’m totally coming back, sooner I hope, rather than later.
Dark X Mas
Last year around this time, I was off braving the frozen wastes of Chicago to head out and meet Clive Barker. I’d sent my buddy, director Mark MacKaye out to scope out the resurrection of the Dark X Mas convention. This year, I had an embargo against larger conventions like Days of the Dead I decided to head out to see Dark X Mas for myself. I’d actually quite enjoyed it’s summer counterpart Dark X Fest, but when I pulled up the map on my GPS I had to double check… The show had moved from the eerie hotel in the middle of nowhere, set against barren fields full of ghostly children. This time around, GPS was taking me to Mentor, and a familiar address at that. Dark X Mas has moved to the Holiday Inn that has hosted Lake Effect Comicon for the last few years. It’s familiar digs, despite being configured a little differently.
Once inside, I made a beeline for Marc Price’s table. Price is best known as Michael J. Fox’s best friend Skippy on Family Ties, but Dark X Mas had him here to celebrate the film Trick or Treat, where he co-starred with Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons.That’s not why I wanted to meet him. I sidled up to his table and pulled out my convention bag.He spied the Troma autograph on it, and pointed excitedly.
“Lloyd Kauffman!, I know that name!” Price exclaimed with a huge grin. He turned and pointed to a particular poster on his banner. “He actually just bought up the rights to all the killer tomatoes movies!”
Out of my bag I pulled the same DVD cover and presented him with Killer Tomatoes Eat France.
“Like this?” I replied smiling. I reached into my bag again.
“I also brought you a friend to meet you.” and with those words I pulled out a plush fuzzy tomato. He picked up FT In wonderment, turning him over and over looking for a tag. I informed him that these were handmade, a little something I’ve been putting together since watching the films recently. He shook his head in astonishment
“Seriously? I thought it was official merch!” I commiserated with him that there was no official merchandise for Killer Tomatoes, and even when the cartoon had been on there was very little. Price was excited to talk about the movie, and shocked that anyone had even seen it much less enjoyed it. He taken the role against the wishes of his agent, who was sure it would be a disaster. Price on the other hand didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to travel to Paris on the film’s dime. He still finds it mildly annoying that like trick-or-treat, he’s not on the cover of the movie – but he remembers all the lines and even knows about some of the other sequels, informing me that George Clooney is in one of them – “the second!” I exclaimed happily.
I pulled out my other killer tomatoes, Zoltan and Fang, and we grabbed a passer-by to take a photo of us with the tomatoes. Price pointed it to them and ask the cameraman do you know what these are?” The guy with the camera grinned and bobbed his head referencing “Part four of the tomatoes trilogy!” Price was flabbergasted that he had another person was familiar with this movie.
He wouldn’t take any money for signing my DVD cover but was selling autographed photos from Trick or Treat and Family Ties with all proceeds going to the Michael J Fox foundation. I cheerfully grabbed a Trick or Treat photo and got a second autograph so I could make a donation. We shook hands but I wasn’t done with Skippy yet!
I moved down to the next table where Angela Jones was sitting. She is probably most notable for a small role that she had in Pulp Fiction, driving taxi for Bruce Willis and chatting about what it feels like to kill a person. It’s a bit role, sure, but it’s a bit role in Pulp Fiction! She was nice enough to sign my VHS box and when it came time to take a photo, there was no one around. She grabbed my phone and waved Price over, asking if he could take the photo for us. This is not something I don’t normally do, asking one of the guests to do grunt work like taking photos seems a little gauche, but she was the one doing the asking. Marc framed us in the picture, then shook his head, unsatisfied with the angle. He moved to the left a little bit… Looked again and shut the shoulders and moved a little bit more to the left. Just a little bit more, and finally found the perfect angle and proceeded to take a photograph of the back of my head. “What are you DOING???” Angela chided Marc as we all laughed together. It was great fun and exactly the kind of goofy stuff you want to see at one of these events.
Shawn South was the last person I was there to meet, he’s been a bit player on a variety of productions, but I was interested in getting him on my Walking Dead poster. They had him seated next to Tim Proctor, another Walking Dead alumni, and he was every bit as friendly and fun as Proctor has been in the past. I caught him well he was chatting up a couple people who had brought him record albums to sign. He told them the story of how Norman Reedus didn’t believe Shawn South was his real name.
“That’s got to be a stage name! Show me your license!” Norman had teased him until he whipped out his driver’s license to prove it. Norman would continue to tease him through production – Shawn SOUTH!” enlisting other cast to run the gag. He recalled one time he had seen Andrew Lincoln pulling out of the parking lot and waved to him “Shawn SOUTH!!!”
I mentioned to him that The Walking Dead was one of of those few TV shows that my wife would watch with me. I told him the story about me catching up the first few seasons when they were marathoning it before starting the series in earnest. It had just always been on and Amy had wandered by enough that she started to get invested, and now it’s more her show than mine.
“Man, I know exactly what you mean,” South replied. “There’s so many shows I watch just so I can hang out with my wife. I mean stuff I’d NEVER have watched on my own. There’s this one Netflix show, it’s from Canada – it’s called Heartland….” My jaw dropped.
“I know Heartland.” I said, trying to control my laughter. “My wife is OBSESSED with it!”
We chatted for a while about the series and out mutual amazement at how it’s lasted 13 years. Then South paused and looked around the ghoulish wares surrounding us and shook his head.
“This is the last place I thought I’d be talking with someone about Heartland!”
Because this was a little smaller of a show I decide it would be a nice place to to a soft premier of my new Skeksis costume from The Dark Crystal. I’d been tinkering with it for a few months and Dark X Mas gave me a deadline to finish the main body (though I’ll still be working on accessories over the winter). I lugged the large costume over to an empty space across from the registration table. The wristbands for the show had been red, which would blend in nicely with my robes, but that also may present a problem getting in and out. So I walked over to the lady at the registration table and presented my band and explained that it may be obscured soon. She chuckled and nodded, then proceed to watch in fascination as I suited up. Tim Proctor from the Walking Dead stopped dead in his tracks as he was passing by.
“I saw all the red and gold and the PVC pipes and though they were putting up a tree r something!” He said as he gawked at the bird-like monster. “This is totally not what I expected!”
I wandered in, stopping for photos with people and I heard a voice nearby warn “You better watch out! Thanksgiving is days away!”. Inside I found monsters to play with. Guests Chris Hahn and Marc Price both jumped in for photos with the skeksis as well as several of the Horror Hosts. One group of horror hosts interviewed me asking “If you can’t find any gelflings to eat then what do you do? Is there like a generic version?”
“Lawn Gnomes.” I replied. then headed over to take a picture with Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Anne Robinson from the original War of the Worlds saw me and gushed.
“I have no idea what you are, but it’s amazing!” She cackled. “Look at the armature on the hands! The fingers even move!”
I had to run outside to grab something from my car. On the way out the gentleman from the Horror Hotel convention stopped me to tell me about thier show. “If you want to come out this year, you’ve got a ticket. I’d bet with all the indie filmmakers there, someone might even want to use that suit in a production!” I thanked him and let him know that Horror Hotel is one of those shows that’s been on my radar, but always seemed to conflict with someone else, but that I’d try to make it next year. I unintentionally freaked out some people trying to park in the hotel lot and retrieved my phone from the car, while sneaking some hydration. On the way back in I ran into Lisa Wilcox (from Nightmare on Elm Street 4&5) taking a smoke break and assured her I’d be in for her panel soon. She grinned. I’d see a dark elf out there later – not quite a gelfling, but close enough!
I do love hitting panels at these events. I managed to sit through Angela Jones talk as well as the Walking Dead panel in my street clothes, but had to sneak in the back for Marc Price and Lisa Wilcox due to the bulky costume. Tim Proctor and Shawn SOUTH moderated thier own panel, just having a talk between themselves and the audience, but apparently no one had been scheduled to do Jones or Wilcox. Joe Ostrica from Retro Invasion Weekend jumped in to save the day acting as impromptu moderator and asking excellent questions on the fly. Much respect to him for doing that.
If I have a complaint about Dark X Mas it’s the lack of organization. Not having moderators and kind of failing t keep the panels on time or on track shows a lack of planning and foresight. The panels kind of just lasted as long as they lasted. Maybe an hour for one. Maybe twenty minuets for another (and they NEED strong programming with the dealers room being on the small side). They advertised a costume contest, but no one knew where they were going to hold it or even who the judges would be. At the last moment they decided to hold it near the entrance of the dealers room and asked the horrors hosts to judge. In the future, I’d like to see a bit more planning, but I DO see a future for this show. It’s a friendly show with a fun atmosphere and I honestly had a better time here than I did at Days of the Dead last year. I’m definitely coming back to Dark X Mas in 2020.
Retro Invasion take two
So here’s the thing, I really want Retro Invasion to succeed. I love the idea behind it, the philosophy and more importantly, I love that it’s practically in my backyard. It’s one exit down from my office and the easiest drive I’ve ever had to a convention.
That’s one heck of a preface isn’t it?
When I entered the hotel this year I was shocked. Remember how last time The convention space was so packed with the tables that you couldn’t even walk between them? This time around things went the opposite direction… The room was still under blocked that I literally walked in looked around and walked out and asked if there was a second vendor‘s room because this One was so empty… It looked like less than 20 tables, including the guests scared of around a very large room… I’m surprised, because this room really would only take about 10 or 15 minutes to walk through and yet there wasn’t an enormous amount of programming going on either. To put it simply, there simply wasn’t a whole lot to do. Add that to the fact that they were once again going up against a mammoth convention competitor happening in the same market – I have absolutely no doubt that Akron Comicon was siphoning away potential attendees.
Being familiar with the layout from last time I managed to find my way upstairs to the movie room in time for a screening of Night of the Creeps. I’m pleased to see that they’ve marked the rooms this time so it’s a little clearer that these spaces are being used for convention functions. However, that didn’t stop them from having confused patrons and I found myself giving directions and pointing people to the correct rooms on a surprising number of occasions.
I don’t know if the screening for the movie was late or if somebody had simply misestimated the running time, but the film was just getting into the third act when it was time for the Night of the Creeps panel. This overlap is a real drag, because you had to choose between watching the movie and listening to the actors – something that would’ve been complimentary to each other if they’ve been scheduled back to back instead of one cutting the other off. I slipped out of the screening about six minutes early to make it to the panel room.
It was empty.
The lights in the room were dimmed, and I was confused – I checked the schedule and the panel was indeed scheduled to start in the next five minutes but no one, not even the moderators, had arrived yet. I decided to make a quick pit stop in the bathroom to kill some time and started heading back to the movie room when I bumped into a couple of young women in spooky clothing and bright hair. They asked me where the panel room was and I showed them, only to discover that these were the moderators and that they were arriving mere moments before the talk was scheduled to start. I probably could’ve caught an additional 10 minutes of my movie.
Jill Whitlow has a very convention friendly personality, she is polite and likes to see her friends but it’s still very much a convention kind of persona. Jason Lively on the other hand is completely cracked. He’s got very much a surfer dude bro personality, and is fun and engaging. He was a delight to hang out with, and while I was waiting in Whitlow’s line to have her sign my Night of the Creeps poster he kept getting bored at his table and running over to me to show me pictures from last time he was at a con. We chatted about Spooky Empire and Chiller and Jean Claude Van Damme movies. It was so much fun. He occasionally check in with Jill and play with her as well, Lively is very hyperactive, especially for somebody who had had as many beers as he’d already had that evening! The stars of Night of the Creeps are both charging $30 for an autograph with an extra $10 up charge if you wanted a photograph with them. I really hate this sort of pricing, and ended up only getting the autographs. After all, the only person from that film who still looks the same as they did back then is Tom Atkins (and I already have a photo with him)! The guys from The Warriors were just flat out charging $40. It’s kind of a drag and really pushing me away from collecting autographs. There was a time when I would’ve grabbed something from everybody in that room, but not with what they’re charging these days.
The panel was good, and I enjoyed what little I get to see of Night of the Creeps, but overall, Retro just doesn’t have enough to do. The convention really can’t keep you occupied for more than a couple of hours and I feel bad for the dude that was in front of me in line who had driven down from Michigan just for this event. This is Retro’s second try at getting the convention formula right and I don’t think they’ve done that yet. It’s my hope that they’ll still give it one more try and get it right, but at this point the goodwill and patience of the con community has got to be fading fast and I’m genuinely not sure if I’ll be back. Guess we’ll wait and see what happens!
Dark X-Fest 2019
I heard nothing but good things about last winter’s Dark X-Mas. This combined with the stellar gust list they were boasting made it a no-brainer to hit Dark X-Fest this summer. With admission at $15 ($13 if you pre-ordered), the only thing to worry about was getting out there. Hudson is a good drive from me, but it ended up being a shorter ride than I expected, and one hour beats the two and and a half to five hour drives I’ve been known to embark on when I hit out of state shows. Still, the hotel was out in the middle of nowhere and I almost drove past it thinking “This can’t be the place”. Seriously, the desolate and solitary hotel looks like something straight up out of a horror movie. You expect to see bodies in the dumpsters out back and creepy semi-transparent children wandering around the lonely stretches of road outside. I parked in the front, right by the sign (Which said nothing about the convention being at the hotel….), near the entrance I had driven in from. This was not the correct entrance. There was another lobby in the BACK of the hotel that would lead to the convention area. I’d end up moving my car later once I’d gotten my bearings.
A pre-ordered pass allowed you to get into the show a half hour early. If you were counting on that however, you were out of luck. The doors were open, but half the vendors and most of the guests weren’t there. The entire show started about a half hour behind it’s posted schedule and that’s a really bad way to kick off the day. I wasn’t pleased. After the poor organization at the last two shows I’d been to this year, I really wasn’t in the mood for more. It would cause them to run a half hour late for most of the day and eventually jettison the Sleepaway Camp panel altogether to catch up (Monster Bash usually runs late like this as well, but that’s because events run long, not because they start late).
The vendor’s room itself was well planned and flowed., set up into two distinct segments. An electric chair was visible as you wandered in and if you dared to sit down in it the chair would light up and vibrate with a lout buzzing. I found a group of guest in the back but was confused – I could swear there were more. I exited the dealer’s room in search of the movie room and panel room. There was an alcove that opened up past the inflatable Pennywise clown. Before a long hallway, there were doors to the “Chainsaw Room”. All the guests from TCM as well as some makeup guests were there.
Down the hall and guarded by a giant Stay Puft marshmallow man, one room was set aside for movies, and another, with chairs and tables served as the panel room. It was like a small classroom from college, with each row elevated above the other. The guest would sit at the bottom and talk. The room filled up fast, with the tables actually limiting how many people could watch a panel. Fortunately, the attendance was low enough to mostly accommodate the setting, and only a few people ended up sitting on the floor to listen to gusts talk about their work.
Autographs were generally $20-$30, and most people weren’t upcharging for photos. All of this was a nice change from the gouging that’s been pervading the con scene lately. Makeup artist Alan Tuske wouldn’t take any money for autographs (“I’m just here to hang out with the fans!”) and Walking Dead zombie Dusty Horne would only take five dollars if you brought your own piece, then he’d insist on taking photos (“Lets do one normal, and then one scary one!”). Even Alyssa Levine, Zelda from the new Pet Semetary film, was only charging $20 (I’m seeing WAY to many new actors asking for twice that).
Felissa Rose’s line was halfway down the length of the vendors room early in the day. I figured I’d bide my time and by the time I finally got around to her, the line was gone and she was chatting with Paul T. Taylor (The newest Pinhead from Hellraiser Judgement) from the table next to her. As I approached they greeted me and included me in the conversation.
“…and a lot of times, it’s like you get just a side eye,” Felissa was saying.
“Well, that’s the thing,” Paul replied. “One eye is safe. It’s casual, but two eyes is intimate. Looking someone into both of their eyes creates a connection.” He mimed looking at her with one eye, and then gave her both. She turned to me and looked into both my eyes. I almost immediately felt uncomfortable, but suppressed an urge to turn. Paul was right. This was more intimate, and I hadn’t even realized it.
“That’s exactly it,” Paul explained. “We don’t even realize we’re doing it.” Felissa nodded as Paul pulled out his phone. “Especially since we’re always walking around like this -” he then stared with both eyes at the screen. Felissa laughed and shook.
“Wow,” she said.
“I know,” Paul said with some disbelief. “That was a hell of a pep talk…”
“That was totally better than an energy drink!” Felissa continued to laugh as she greeted me in earnest. I unrolled my Victor Crowley poster. The last time I’d spoken with Felissa it had been right after I went to see the movie during Adam Green’s tour. When we’d chatted about it she was able to tell her assistant about how he’d done it in secret. “It was like Finally! I’d been dying to tell someone and she is one of my best friends and I was about to burst!”. I’d just recently re-watched it in preparation for the con. I still think. it’s the best in all the Hatchet series, and Felissa is the best thing about it, something I told her. Seriously, I want to see more of that character from her.
“Oh my God, when Adam told me what I had to do with her I was just like I can’t!” It really is a horrible character and brilliantly broad comedy. I slipped her the cash fot the autograph and after she handed me change, she stopped me.
“Hang on, I really want to sign something TO you. Grab a photo from the table.” I did and she signed it to me, then insisted on taking photos with me. She hugged me and and told me to come out for karaoke later. I mentioned that if I did, it would be with a different face (and a Jason puppet) She screamed in delight and promised to watch for me. I love Felissa. She’s always one of my favorite guests.
Paul T. Taylor is no slouch either. He gets a lot of hate from certain parts of the Hellraiser fan base who really believe only Doug Bradley can be Pinhead. I’m not one of those people though I’ll readily admit I prefer Doug. So does Paul for that matter.
Paul is fun to talk to – he’s a real fan who’s steeped in the lore, from the movies to the comics (as far as talking about how much he’d love to see Kirsty as Pinhead, the way the Boom series had done). It was really illuminating to talk to him about how he approached the character as well as how the movie had been reshot at the close of filming. The original ending was actually completely different, and made way more sense than what actually made it to film. I did a re-watch of Judgment when I got home with a whole new appreciation for the film.
One of the nice things about the recent horror cons popping up in Ohio is the familiar faces. With more in the immediate area, I’m far more likely to have friends there to hang out with. I spied Jason and Tina unloading their car as I moved from the front of the hotel to the back where the entrance was. He greeted me and let me know Beetlejuice would be down later. Inside, I rounded a corner and comletely unexpectedly ran into Jen and Mark, in a group with Jennifer and Chris. I haven’t seen these guys in a while and it was good to be able to hang out for a while. Sarah was set up at a vendor’s table and Steve Eggs caught up with me just after I gored up. Randy was there with teh Retro invasion and Lily absolutely need a photo with me. Mark showed up with his wife Erin and the Black Leaf Coven decked out in thier creepy finest. It was cool to actually be able to see Cliff in his new burlap costume. He’d been showing me photos at the screening of Annabelle Comes Home, but in person is a whole different experience.
Mark caught me as I was popping outside and between drags of a cigarette asked when I was getting made up.
“Right now!,” I exclaimed, heading to my car to make the transformation into Freddy Kruger. Freddy wasn’t a capricious choice, I had actually run another poll during the week to see what people wanted to see creeping around Dark X-Fest. It was a much closer result than the previous one. Uncle Frank took an early lead, but ultimately Freddy prevailed.
I actually went into makeup early, because the day was hot. At 92 degrees outside, I was worried about how my Freddy makeup was holding up in the hot car. Even with the windows down, the temperature is enough to melt glue and dry latex. I had my appliance spread out around my had like a dummy head, keeping it streched and preventing pieces from sticking together. Still, there was some separation by the nose. No biggie. I’d planned on doing patchups anyhow. When the photos came back from Free Comic Book Day, I noticed that the beard by the corner of my mouth hadn’t been entirely covered by the chin and latex. I’d resolved to fix that with this application. I flattened my facial hair with beeswax and applied the adhesives. Between repairs, application and coloring with makeup and blood gel, the entire process only took a satisfying forty minuets. I’d be done in time for the Hellraiser panel. There had been paint leftover from fixing up Mr. Freeze for Akron Canton Comic Con last week, so I had used some on my glove to help make the blades look more metal than plastic. I had brought the ripped sweater that opened to reveal Freddy’s chest of souls. To push the absurdity just a touch further I’d be carrying a large puppet Jason with me. He’d actually been built a couple of years prior with this very idea in mind, but it happened to take me this long to break out Freddy again.
I had decided to go hard with the costume this time around since the show was sponsoring a costume contest. While this isn’t exactly as common in the horror convention scene as it is with comicons, it does seem to be filtering in slowly. A lot of haunters love these kind of shows and are eager for the opportunity to strut thier stuff. With only one winner in the adult and kids categories though, I wasn’t expecting to nab a win, but wanted to make a good showing. To my delight, the trophy went to Mark’s Black Leaf Coven. I love it when good things happen to my friends. But even better was who won the kids/teen division. The previous week I had gushed over a killer Ronald McDonald at Akron Canton Comic Con. It was my absolute favorite costume that day and I was disappointing she didn’t win any awards there. She won the kids/teen division at Dark X-Fast and it absolutely made my day (especially beating out that Michael Myers as a furry…..don’t ask).
As the day was winding down I had finally discovered where the show had been hiding Alan Tuskes (in the back corner of the Chainsaw room, past the vendors). I nipped out to the car and grabbed my folder of Items to be signed. As I was coming in I was greeted by a dude with half his face gone. he was hanging out with a reasonable facimile of Glen from Nightmare on Elm Street who both wanted to chat and take photos. We ran over to where the pro photo ops had been – they were done now so we borrowed thier backdrop to take our own pictures. Freddy fought the baseball bat and gored Glen as amused passerbys watched.
We talked a little about our outfits and upcoming plans. The dude wanted to get a Brain Damage costume going with an articulate Elmier. I mentioned that I loved doing suits were things ride on the shoulder and described how I had gotten Baby Groot and my Borg Tribble to sit on my shoulder using magnets. His eyes went wide.
“I never thought of mounting him with magnets! Dude, this is what I love about cons and talking to other cosplayers. The way other people figure out how to do things a way you’d never come up with yourself!”
Finally I was making my way over to Tuskes. I actually caught him on the way over to the dealers room (which I feel bad about), but he was excited to talk – he’d been watching my exchange with the other guys. He poked my chest of souls with an index finger.
“Is that…?” he inquired knowingly. I nodded in acknowledgement. “Great stuff. That expanding foam stuff for cracks and insulation.” He loved it and waved me to follow him over to his corner. Tuskes looked over my collection of pictures appreciatively. As he came to the Dusk Till Dawn 8×10, he asked if I’d ever heard the story of how the film got made. I admitted I haden’t and he proceeded to spin the yarn about Tarintino’s early days at the video store and how the script originally came to him before he really hit. After True Romance and Resivoir Dogs, the studio were asking if he had anything more. Out of his back pocket came Dusk Till Dawn, but he couldn’t direct it. I’m sure this is a story most peole have heard, but it’s exactly what I love about these kind of shows, hearing the stories of the industry straight from the mouths of those who were there.
I found myself so busy during the show that I only made it to about half of one film. I should have spent more time in that movie room. It was about ten degrees cooler than the rest of the convention space. Still, it was worth it. I caught both the Hellraiser panel and the Sean Whalen’s talk. I had stuck around so I could see the Sleepaway camp panel next (which never happened) and found my self captivated by his stories – and the image of homer Simpson in a moo-moo on his shirt.
I probably ended up staying later than I intended to, but that’s the sign of a good show.despite the bad start, I really came away from Dark X-Fest feeling like I’d gotten a real convention experience and had a great time. I’m really digging this show and hope to make it out to the Dark X-Mas show later this year.
Retro Invasion Weekend
“I’m so glad to know I’m in the right place,” the guy told me as he got out of his car. I bobbed my head up and down in the monkey costume and was greeted by a young woman at the entrance to the hotel.
“I have no idea who you are,” the girl told me, “but I love you.”
Tracy the Ape was feeling very welcome here at retro invasion
Retro invasion weekend is a small convention in its first year in Westlake, one of the shortest drives from my house ever – a mere 20 minutes on the freeway, closer than my office commute actually. They also had the curious distinction of being held in the same hotel where I attended my first Star Trek convention, so it was good vibes all around.
I really dig the philosophy here, Retro Invasion was holding a reunion for the film Just One of the Guys, as well as attempting to hold a Sleepaway Camp reunion. Going for weird little films that were not necessarily mainstream horror but still running with the horror vibe really makes for an interesting convention…
Because it’s their first year, one can understand that there’s going to be some problems… A number of their issues were not their fault, but then again there were also plenty of problems that were. Let’s start with the stuff that wasn’t their fault
Retro Invasion had been plagued with unfortunate cancellations. The first guest to bow out was Courtney Gains who played one of the murderous children in Children of the Corn. His dropping out had been announced months earlier so while it was disappointing, it was expected. However it also appears that Felissa Rose and Kathrine Kamhi cancelled quite late in the game, and this was not adequately advertised. I only knew because I’ve made a habit to repeatedly check convention websites just before the show (Because of what happened way back in 2012 with North Coast Comic Con). I saw more than a few people wandering around in Camp Arawak shirts still expecting the Sleepaway Camp reunion that was no longer going to happen. It also will have seriously cut into the convention’s income as they were offering a special Sleepaway Camp photo op in costume – it was actually reasonably priced and I was actually considering taking advantage of it (and we all know I NEVER do these things).
In any event, the guest cancellations had to have affected attendance. Another factor was Colossalcon happening the same weekend. While there is not a ton of crossover there, I can imagine it weakened the support a bit. None of these things are the shows fault, however there were serious organization problems that really showed
The dealers room was small and cramped. One vendor, upon seeing how tight the room was, asked the promoter if you could just set up his booth in the hallway instead, creating an entire little alcove near the registration desk for his wares. The room itself was divided into three aisles, but you could only access the middle aisle by going behind the tables on the end caps and slipping between that and the tables on the outer aisle… Someone had marked the path with bright pink duck tape arrows on the carpet – nevertheless it was difficult enough to get through that the vendors in the middle aisle were really feeling shafted… And wern’t shy about expressing their displeasure. To get a better feel for the place, check out Neon Trash’s video review (My monkey ghostbuster actually opens the video)
Panels and films were held in a completely different part of the hotel – a problem the late and lamented Shinbokucon used to have. Motor City Nightmares manages to make this work, with photo ops and one of their two movie rooms occurring on a different floor, however the second movie room on that floor only shows skullhouse pictures – their own work. For them, it’s overflow rather than main attraction. With Retro Invasion, the movie room and the panel room were both on the third floor, over in the other side of the hotel. This made for a lot of walking back and forth, and neiter room was adequately marked. After some walking, I found the panel room because the door was open, but I had to ask two different people to find the movie room. It would’ve helped have had these two locations marked with large “Retro Invasion” signs as well as schedules posted outside those doors.
Still, I can’t complain. The film selections were fun and the panels were well done – by the numbers, but on the other hand I had no idea how much fun it would be to watch Danny Hicks and Robert Kurtzman bounce off each other. Retro Invasion offered good programming, but it’s way too hard to figure out where that programming is actually LOCATED.
Overall, the convention was very lightly attended, which will make it difficult for them to secure vendor’s for thier next show. At one point, a panel was announced over the loudspeaker. One of the vendor’s voices rang out “And you’ll have NO PROBLEM finding a seat!”. Around noon, a lot of the vendors in the small room began tearing down and giving up for the day – that’s never a good sign.
I really did enjoy my time at Retro Invasion, though I think the $30 ticket price is a little high for what they offer. I would however, really like to see them succeed – I seriously dig having a horror convention so close to home and like the quirky philosophy that they seem to bring to their show. They’ve scheduled a second go around later this year – on Nov 1-3. Nevertheless, they’re going to have a hard time finding vendors for a second year and unless this show gets better very quickly, it’s going to vanish.
I’ll be back in November. Let’s see what happens.
I trudged back to my car in my monkey feet and bathrobe, head still in my hands. A woman yelled out “Looks like a rough night. You just getting up?”. Her companion shook his head.”Look at him. He’s not getting up. He’s STILL up!”
That’s about right for Wasteland. Late night parties. Early morning ones to – I was actually one my way out after a breakfast party in the snuggle dungeon when I was spotted. Around the corner, my friends Rhonda and Chriss were playing Choking Hazard with a young woman named Brooke. They had thrown out the rules and just kept throwing down cards until they had transformed the Cyanide and Happiness game from a comic strip into almost an animation.
Back inside, Gunga Jim handed out tiny hands before screeing I Eat Your Skin; the bottom half of the traditional bill with this years featured reunion for I Drink Your Blood. Jim’s commentary made I Eat Your Skin almost tolerable, and I realized I’d never actually seen I Drink Your Blood. It’s extremely seventies and while i knew the two movies weren’t related, I never knew HOW different they were. This was the right way to see it though, with an audience.
The cast was having fun meeting the fans, many of which had never done a conention before. This isn’t unusal. Wasteland tries to draw people that other cons overlook. While I waited in line, I helped Mink Stole (One of John Water’s troupe) figure out the camera on her phone.
Tracy the Gorilla was a big hit. Wasteland isn’t really a cosplay show, but when I put together the gorilla ghostbuster, I figured I’d be able to get away with it a couple of horror cons as well as events like ConCoction. It may be the novelty made him more popular at Wasteland. I’ve never taken as many photos with people at this show before.
It’ll be another six months before we go back (though they are starting up the movie nights this August, so yay), and it can’t come soon enough.